In the spring in the UK, marquee horse races capture the imagination of tens of thousands of spectators in addition to those tuning in from across the globe. While many of the world’s biggest races, such as the Melbourne Cup or the Kentucky Derby, take place in other countries, England dominates the early stages of the annual racing calendar. The true starting point, as far as many are concerned, is the Cheltenham Festival.
Run annually over the course of four days in mid-March, the Cheltenham Festival is the first event of the year that offers a chance for spectators to see multiple significant races featuring top horses and trainers. For that reason, the event earns a great deal of international attention. But beyond its prowess as a sporting event, it also serves as one of the great annual tourist attractions in all of the UK. Anyone familiar with prestigious horse races will know that they’re about more than the races, often catering to spectators with everything from fine dining and fashion shows to lively bar areas and musical performances. It’s in these areas that Cheltenham excels so much that it truly constitutes a full vacation destination in and of itself.
The festival is particularly unique from a tourism standpoint in that each of its four days offers different celebrations and attractions. The horse races are naturally among the main events on each day, but various other happenings, including a full-fledged celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, keep the down time between races full of entertainment. For more on just what each day at Cheltenham is about on and off the tracks, check out this festival guide.
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